Free Fire, directed by Ben Wheatley, is a contained wild ride. Filled with an eclectic assortment of characters who all have their quirks, which in turn all play off of each character to the delight of the audience, who are treated to a hilariously filled 90 minutes of wise cracks and gunfire. It’s surprising how easily the film is able to hold your attention throughout all the carnage, but it does, and it all makes for an experience that you gleefully want to be a part of. So let’s get on with the full review and see what exactly it is that makes Free Fire so much fun to watch.
Set solely in a warehouse, we watch as two gangs of increasingly incompetent individuals attempt to buy and sell guns from one another. Things continually escalate until there is a popping off point and all hell breaks loose. What we end up watching is a night of gunfire, insults and the desperate want to get out alive; and if you can get the briefcase full of money out with you, well then happy days.
It is in the strength in which the characters of the film are established and written that makes this one shine. For a film that is only 90 minutes in length, it is refreshing to see how easily and how much time it gives to making sure each of the characters are set-up and clear to remember. It then from that builds upon them; establishing the dynamics between each of the characters, which pays off later on as they each encounter one another during the gunfight. It is something that was really important to the overall experience when watching the film – a film in which you feel very much a part of.
And it is in those dynamics which have had the opportunity to be set-up and then flourish, that so much of the films enjoyment comes from. This is a really funny film; with quirky characters who are not only incompetent but also willing to double-cross their partners at the drop of a hat. But while every character is easily able to play-off of one another, the film still makes the effort to have personal grudges influence certain decisions. A perfect example would be, Frank – played by Michael Smiley – and Ord – played by Armie Hammer – who just take an instant disliking to one another from the beginning and when bullets start flying, they two quite gleefully taunt one another; always hoping that the other hasn’t survived the most recent round of shooting. But there’s great fun to be had from it. Everyone in this film is utterly reprehensible, and you enjoy watching them torment and insult one another.
I can’t stress enough, just how integral the relationships between the multiple characters are to the film. In total you have 10 characters who are all contained within an old factory, somewhere in Boston. And by the end of the first act you have a really good grasp of who everyone is and what it is that primarily makes up their personality. From brain-dead druggies, to no-nonsense Irishmen, to a man who wears beard oil or an oddball arms dealer with a temper; Free Fire offers so much in the way of eclectic characters. None of them fade into the background and they are always a treat to watch. It is just a constant stream of individuals who stand out and hold your attention.
I think that factor is also helped by the great cast of actors who all deliver their characters brilliantly. Actors like Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor, Noah Taylor, Babou Ceesay, Sam Riley and Enzo Cilenti. And while I really enjoyed all of their performances and thought they all brought it – it was Sharlto Copley who for me stole the show. He had the majority of the best lines and his character was forever stealing the scene and offering up the most laughs. Now that’s not to diminish the rest of the actors, it’s just that for me personally, he was my favourite.
But my enjoyment for all the character and the actors playing them didn’t help to solve an issue that cropped up as the film went on, and it relates to the fact that everyone in the film is completely reprehensible. I struggled to find anyone to root for. I saw all of these people who either had done terrible things or were currently doing terrible things and I just couldn’t bring myself to support any of them, no matter what dangers were upon them. But then maybe it didn’t matter? I’m not sure. I mean, my time and my experience with the film were never hampered; I never found myself losing interest or engagement with it. I was at all times interested to see how things would play out and who next might bite the bullet. It is an issue that I feel might affect some people’s time with the film and I can to an extent understand that, for me it is something I will continue to mull over.
Beyond the greatly defined characterisation of everyone, there is also a well-made film. From a blocking standpoint, the film does a good job of keeping you in the loop as to where everyone is in relation to one another, and it also utilises particular landmarks, which help you to understand the geography of the factory floor and where each person either is or is moving to. Now it wasn’t always the case; sometimes when the bullets would start flying, it became a little difficult to get a handle on who was shooting at whom and where they might be moving to. It was in the calmer of moments where you could easily re-centre yourself and begin to understand fully, how the layout of people had changed. So while it never properly affected my watching experience, it was something that I felt I had to continually do.
There is also the sound design and sound mixing which helps to communicate a lot of what is happening. Whether it is bullets ricocheting of off multiple surfaces or it is being able to hear the dialogue of a character while they are in a different area of the factory; a lot of time and attention to detail was put into making sure everything lined up and was really easy for the audience to understand where and what was happening. Simply from a filmmaking standpoint, Free Fire is very deliberate and smart in how it is executed.
Overall, Free Fire is a hilarious, carnage filled ride with characters who you want so see much more of and a situation that couldn’t be easier to get a handle on. It all adds up to a really fun time, that also surprisingly has a satisfying ending.
I’m absolutely recommending Free Fire – such an easy film to sit down and simply be a part of; where your attention will never waver and your laughing will never stop. I am confident you’ll have as much fun watching this film as I did.
I’d of course love to hear what you thought of Free Fire, or my review. So please leave any thoughts or feedback in the comments down below. If you’re interested, you can follow my blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. That way you’ll always know when I post something new. Thanks so much for reading my writing and I hope you’ll come back some time.